Directly impacted families:
The Parchese a los Populares is an organization that has helped the youth of a traditionally troubled neighborhood – La Candelaria in Bogota, Colombia – find opportunities through tourism. Located in a historic part of the city, tourists used to have difficulty visiting the area or getting to know the people who lived there due to stigma. At the same time, the local residents reaped none of the rewards of tourism despite their proximity to the places tourists visited. This project has encouraged young people to find meaningful opportunities rather than turn towards delinquency. Now, they share their culture by making hip-hop music and displaying graffiti, and give tours where their stories are placed front and center. This has allowed the young people of La Candelaria meaningful work and self-sufficiency, and trickled into other benefits throughout the community that will be passed down to future generations.
Travelers who visit the area get a unique experience off the beaten path. Along with enjoying live music and lunch in a family home, they get an authentic glimpse at life in La Candelaria, and hear inspiring, first-hand accounts of the resilience of these young people.
Involvement of V Social
VSocial has been supporting this project since 2018. Donations of thousands of euros have allowed the young people of La Candelaria to implement new ideas, such as creating a T-shirt company to generate more income. Financing infrastructure, holding training workshops, and linking Parchese a los Populares with other VSocial projects ensures that they have a stable foundation to depend on income from tourism and pursue other avenues towards self-sufficiency.
Directly impacted families:
Being able to generate income through tourism has given the young people of La Candelaria an alternative to a life associated with crime. Not only that, but through hip-hop and graffiti they are given positive forms of self-expression and are able to transform the reputation of where they live. They learn that their talents are valued and a means towards success. The effect has been exponential. More than 10 families have directly benefited from the organization, along with several more who sell food and souvenirs to visitors. A hip-hop school has brought more young people into the project. These young people have come to be seen as role models in their neighborhood. Several have entered university or dedicated themselves to social work. The project has been recognized with prizes and is seen as a benchmark for urban community tourism in Colombia and abroad.
Jeicoth is a young man who has lived all his life in Roció, a neighborhood in the heart of Bogotá. El Roció is just ten blocks from the residence of the President of the Republic, but as recently as 10 years ago it was unsafe territory for tourists. For the young people of El Rocío, tourism seemed like robbery. They felt invaded by tourists and didn’t see any way that tourism could benefit them. However, in a neighborhood where the opportunities for young people were crime, jail, or the cemetery, their attitude towards tourism changed when they saw how it could be an instrument for good.
Jeicoth and his friends share a passion for hip-hop and graffiti. Through both, they have a vehicle to express their way of life and describe the emptiness they feel in their environment. Hip-hop and graffiti motivate them to transform their daily reality into something meaningful and hopeful.
Along with other people his age, Jeicoth decided to put together a tour where they were the stars of the story. Tourists were interested in having more direct contact with the community, and giving their own tour allowed the local youth to showcase their neighborhood and art. It also gave them a real, alternative income that broadened their independence and the decisions they were able to make about their lives.
Not satisfied with their success, Jeicoth and the other young people wanted to go further. Their goal was to make tourists reflect on the social stigma that came along with being raised in a crime-ridden neighborhood. They transformed a basic tour about history and heritage into a cultural exchange that put their resilience at the center. Through their efforts, these young people achieved what they once thought was impossible: a real economic alternative that enabled them to develop personally, artistically, and professionally.
Since then, the project has grown to involve their families. Mothers, siblings, and other young people in the neighborhood took up the new opportunities available, selling food and handicrafts.
Today, more than three years after the project began, there are new challenges due to the pandemic. The setbacks and uncertainty have motivated young people like Jeicoth to reinvent themselves again. In 2020, with the help of $1500 from VSocial, they bought printing machines and launched a T-shirt brand to ensure they had new opportunities.
Thanks to this venture, three families and a total of 18 people were able to pay their rent and living expenses. They sold 11 shirts a day and made 20,000 Colombian pesos, an income of approximately $60. Half of this money was set aside for new investments, such as producing music videos for their songs and promoting other urban brands. An Instagram account was created as a platform to show local talent to people in Colombia and around the world. It has 94,000 followers.
Parchese a los Populares continues to work daily to improve the community, using art as a tool to transform a place of crime and conflict into peace. Their goal is to extend their reach and connect 100 young people from the neighborhood so that they all have a choice when it comes to personal and professional development.